Reflections on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

So…I have thoughts about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Lots of thoughts. I’ve just not known how to organize them into something sensible, so I kept putting off a post about the show. But there’s no new Bones this week, and maybe if I dump my brain onto the keyboard, I’ll have a better grip on things.

Where’s the line between liking something, and being a fan? I freely admit to having obsessive tendencies towards certain films, books or TV shows – I can go months at a time without seeing a film in the theater, but there are others I’ve seen in the cinema multiple, multiple times. On the other hand, there are also plenty of things I like but don’t lose my mind over. And I don’t have a clue what flips something into the “she’s clearly insane” category.

Part of the reason the question is particularly pertinent here is because it’s always seemed as if AoS should be in that obsessive category, and I’ve puzzled because it wasn’t, quite. Or wasn’t. I think the last few weeks have nudged it there, but if you’re obsessed by something, shouldn’t you know?

(I did warn you not to expect anything sensible here. This is just different parts of my brain having a public argument.)

I’m a fan of Joss Whedon, particularly BtVS, AtS, Firefly, and The Avengers. I’d enjoyed the Iron Man films, but wasn’t sold on the Marvel universe when I went to see The Avengers, and yet the combination of Whedon and Marvel was enough to make me commit to watching Shield.

I watched it all through the fall, and liked it enough to keep doing so (I didn’t really become invested in BtVS until S2, so I was willing to give it a season) but wasn’t feeling a real connection to any of the characters except Coulson.

Fitz and Simmons felt like a gimmick to me – one body, named Fitzsimmons, with two heads (and really, the show has fed that, I think, even to the two of them giving the same answer during Eric’s lie detector test); Skye struck me at times as a bit of a brat, Ward seemed like a generic, rather dull, good guy, and May? I did actively dislike her at times, mostly because of her treatment of Skye. And yeah, the irony of that doesn’t escape me, given I wasn’t all that enamored of Skye.

I stuck with the show, though, mostly for Coulson, but partly because I was too stubborn to give up. And it’s not like I didn’t like it. (You know those things you do when you’re a kid that you don’t really want to do, but wind up enjoying to some degree in spite of yourself? That was me and this show in the fall.)

But around the time Skye got shot, I started going ‘hmmm.’ And the last few weeks? It’s been much more a “YES! It’s Tuesday! I get to watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D tonight!” response.

The weird thing is, I can’t point to one episode, or one scene, and say, ‘That. Right there. That hooked me.’

But here are some things that are really working for me:

1. The integration with the larger Marvel universe – this has always been there, to a degree, but after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the TV show has felt like a continuation of the events in the films, and I love that. I like big, complex stories told on lots of levels, and from lots of perspectives, so…score!

2. Coulson – granted, this, too, was always there, and the reason I kept watching the show in the first place. It’s no secret that I love good guys, but I prefer them with an edge somewhere to make them human. The edge can be a character flaw, something they struggle to overcome in order to be the good guy, or…about anything, really, that makes it hard for them to be the person they want to be.

With Coulson, it’s that he’s sort of Everyman, for one thing. An ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances trying to do the right thing. Oh, and he died once, and has a lot of baggage.

We’ve seen him face everything from betrayal by those he cares about to the decision to allow the love of his life to believe he’s dead, all with honesty, grace and humor. And on the leadership front? He’s doesn’t suffer fools, has a low B.S. threshold, and is always, always there for his people. I’d follow him anywhere.

(It’s clear that I’m in love with him, right?)

3. Coulson and Skye –  this feels a bit Buffy-and-Giles to me (also, I love platonic relationships between men and women).  When he came in to rescue her in Tuesday’s episode, I nearly cried. I’ve liked their relationship for a while now, even back when she mostly annoyed me. I love that he gave her a second chance, and I’m looking forward to watching them deal with the threat that hangs over the two of them. Will he tell her what he learned in the video?

During the lie detector test in The Only Light I’ve Ever Known, Skye answers the question, ‘why are you here?’ with ‘it’s the only home I’ve ever known.’ Coulson is at the center of that for her, and, my love for ‘more than one type of family’ should not be a surprise to anyone reading this blog.

4. Coulson and May – yeah, I spent a whole lot of months being ticked off at May. But I never questioned her commitment to Coulson, and so to watch her over these past few weeks struggle with the line between honestly and loyalty touched me. Best yet? I love that she not only came back, but that he wasn’t surprised that she did so. Even when deeply hurt, he trusts her on some level.

They hurt one another, but they also need each other.

5. Ward – I don’t like him. That’s not the weird part. Let’s just be clear about that. But as I said to a friend over the weekend, he’s a lot more interesting to me now that he’s turned out not to be The Generic, Hot, Good Guy.  One of the odder things to me in the fall was that I kept feeling like I ought to like him. I mean, he’s one of the heroes, right? Good looking, he risked his life to save Simmons, and yet…somehow, nothing ever hooked me there.

The sex with May was part of it, as was his easy capitulation to Lorelei (even though, yeah, I know that wasn’t really his fault.) I don’t need a ship on all of my shows, and in fact, I’m not really shipping anyone here. (Well, except Coulson and Audrey, but I know a hopeless ship when I see one.) But I’m romantic enough to think sex should at least come with friendship and a degree of affection, and that was absent between May and Ward.

But what I’m curious about now is whether or not the writers thought they were writing him as fully heroic, and we’d be surprised by his betrayal, or if they were always trying to subtly send cues that he might not be the good guy he appeared to be. That question fascinates me – a lot more than the character did prior to the revelation he’s Hydra.

Also of interest is the ‘what happens now?’ game I’m playing. I’ve got at least three theories for where the story goes in terms of Ward. Based on my success rate with Bones, I’m almost certainly wrong on all points, but puzzling over it is part of my new-found obsession interest in the show.

6. Fitz and Simmons – In the past few weeks, we’ve seen these two separating some, growing in different directions – and then fighting to come back together. Watching them at the end of Nothing Personal struggle with the question of whether they can trust one another was simply heartbreaking.

All these people need each other. Coulson needs May; May needs Coulson; Skye needs all of them, but especially Coulson; and Fitz and Simmons are lost without one another. Ward screwed with everyone on the team by making them doubt the very people they can’t live without.

Meanwhile, Tripplet – posed to be Ward’s replacement, I think – is every bit as lost and homeless as Skye was when they found her last fall, but it’s harder for him, because the team’s not exactly in a position to make rational decisions about new members.

It’s a huge mess, but the story potential, with questions about betrayal, trust, the nature of duty, heroism and leadership  – oh, and are Coulson and Skye psychopathic time bombs getting ready to go off? – is phenomenal.

Bonus Quote:

“Trust me. I’m going to have a major freak-out later.” Coulson.




2 thoughts on “Reflections on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

  1. I adore you! You pretty much hit the nail on the head with how I feel, but worded it a whole lot better 🙂

    Coulson was always the hook for me (I adored him from Iron Man to Avengers, & still freak out everytime I watch the latter and he ‘dies’.), although the fact that Joss is involved also played a big part (you’d follow Coulson anywhere? I’d follow Joss anywhere! LOL).

    I always liked the show, from day 1, but the episodes following Winters Soldier are where it’s really taken off, IMO. It elevated it to a whole new level, and I feel that the show has finally (FINALLY!) found it’s feet.

    Ward…oh Ward. Not gonna lie….i’m a little bit in love with this badass, conflicted, who’s side is he on Ward (are you surprised? 😉 ) and I’m looking forward to seeing how they continue this arc. At the moment he’s bad but still has his weaknesses (mainly one beginning with S and ending in E. I think there’s a K and Y in there somewhere too…) but I’m wondering if he’ll stay that way, or will he go full on bad ass…or will they look to redeem him? There’s so many possibilities and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

    These last few episodes have me in a position where I actually care about all our characters (bar Garret, obvs, because he’s an ass), whereas previously I only really loved Coulson & Fitzsimmons (I know you viewed them as gimmicky, but I’ve adored them since day 1. Their friendship/relationship is just delightful…and occasionally heart wrenching).

    I really really can’t wait for the remainder episodes of the Season. Things are gonna get messy 😀

  2. I think things are good to be very messy, indeed.

    As to Ward…if they do redeem him, I don’t think it will quickly, not the way they’ve set it up.

    I’d really like to see them explore loyalty to Hydra, possibly through Ward’s character. The logic set up at the end of CA2 doesn’t hold up for all of them, I don’t think. Ward tells himself he’s following orders. But it’s like what Coulson said to May a couple of weeks ago: they’re more than duty, they’re supposed to figure out right from wrong. Is Ward following Garrett because he really believes in Hydra, or out of loyalty to Garrett – a man who’ll kill him in a heartbeat? What does it take to shake that devotion, if it can be shaken? Anything?

    To tell the truth, I wouldn’t want them to make his redemption too easy, not after everything he’s done. But I’m curious about whether it’s possible, and what it would take. And for some reason, Faith keeps coming to mind. Her redemption wasn’t easy, but it did happen.

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